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The World Commission on Dams + 10: Revisiting the large dam controversy

Deborah Moore
Former Commissioner, World Commission on Dams; Executive Director, Green Schools Initiative; Berkeley, California, USA;
John Dore
Water Resources Advisor, Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Mekong Region;
Dipak Gyawali
Research Director, Nepal Water Conservation Foundation, Kathmandu, Nepal;

ABSTRACT: The World Commission on Dams (WCD) was an experiment in multi-stakeholder dialogue and global governance concerned with a subject area -€“ large dams -€“ that was fraught with conflict and controversy. The WCD Report, Dams and Development: A New Framework for Decision-Making, was published in 2000 and accompanied by hopes that broad-based agreements would be forged on how to better manage water and energy development. Ten years later, this special issue of Water Alternatives revisits the WCD and its impacts, exploring the question: Is the WCD still relevant? The editorial team and the Guest Editors of this special issue of Water Alternatives have selected a range of 20 papers, 6 viewpoints, and 4 book reviews that help to illustrate the evolution in the dams debate. The goal of this special issue is to examine the influence and the impacts of the WCD on the dam enterprise, in general, and on the policies and practices of key stakeholders and institutions, and on the development outcomes for affected communities and environments, in particular. In this introduction, the Guest Editors provide an overview of the special issue, exploring the new drivers of dam development that have emerged during the last decade, including climate change and new financiers of dams, and describing the themes emerging from this diverse set of papers and viewpoints. This special issue demonstrates the need for a renewed multi-stakeholder dialogue at multiple levels. This would not be a redo of the WCD, but rather a rekindling and redesigning of processes and forums where mutual understanding, information-sharing, and norm-setting can occur. One of the most promising developments of the last decade is the further demonstration, in case studies described here, that true partnership amongst key stakeholders can produce transformative resource-sharing agreements, showing that many of the WCD recommendations around negotiated decision making are working in practice. We hope that this special issue sparks a dialogue to recommit ourselves to finding effective, just, and lasting solutions for water, energy and ecosystem management. It is a testament to the continued relevance of the WCD Report that ten years later it is still a topic of intense interest and debate, as illustrated by the papers presented in this special issue.